Friday, November 19, 2010

The Missionary Nature of the Church

Two weeks ago, my very good friend Fr. Sebastian Kolodziejczyk, who is the director of Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II orphanage in Lurin, Peru, gave the annual mission co-op for my parishes in Arcadia and Waumandee. His address on the missionary nature of the Church, and in particular, the place of charity, that is the virtue of caritas, was so inspiring that I have wanted to relate it here so that his message might be more widely known. I am relating his message as best I can recall it in his voice. It's a bit long, but I think that it is worth it. I hope that you will be inspired as I have been.

"Ihave always felt that I have needed to make and excuse for my vocation to priesthood in the missions. I have had this desire to serve in the missions since high school. Even when I announced this to my parish priest, who was very supportive of my more general desire to be a priest, I was immediately called to defend this call. Why should this be?

From the very beginning the Church has been missionary in Her very nature. In the gospels Jesus instructs his apostles to "go out into the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Matthew 28) They didn't wait for Jerusalem to be fully evangelized before spreading out and taking the gospel to all the known world.

How is it that these twelve were able to be so successful? How is it that this little group of Israelites was able to grow and grow to, in a mere 300 years, become the official religion of the empire? I have wondered and wondered about that. I mean, if you were making up a religion that would be appealing to people on a purely human level it wouldn't be Christianity! Think about it. Our God is three persons yet one god. How do you explain that? Jesus Christ is true God yet true man - two natures: human and divine. How do you explain that in any satisfactory way? And the Eucharist, 30% of Catholics in the United States don't even understand and believe that. So how do you explain the growth of the Church? What is its attraction? Where is its power?

Then I was reading a book about the history of the Church and I came across Julian the Apostate. Julian was the emperor a mere 60 years after Constantine legalized the Church, but he was afraid of how influential and powerful the Church had become and so he sought to destroy it. Hence the name "apostate". He decided to bring back the pagan religion of Rome. He put all his imperial weight behind supporting the rise of the pagan priesthood, temples, feasts, and customs. He also made one other thing a part of his pagan revival - charity. Julian recognized that the power of Christianity, its earthly power in any case, was its concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.

Fr. Joe Walejewski came to the diocese (of La Crosse) from Detroit. He related to then Bishop Treacy how he made a promise to God that, if he were to become a priest, he would spend himself for the missions. Bishop Treacy then allowed him to go to Bolivia where he presented himself to the local bishop and was asked to go and care for the people of the poorer districts of Santa Cruz. So, "Holy Cross Parish" was established. He labored there for many years and established a community of faith which continues to this day under the leadership of Fr. Robert Flock.

From Bolivia, Fr. Joe moved on to Peru where a great earthquake had struck. He started working among the people there when, one day he was walking along and saw a newspaper on the ground move. Under that newspaper he discovered and poor abandoned child. From this experience Casa Hogar was begun.

Through a series of providential occurrances I came to be introduced to him. In time he presented me to Bishop Burke who accepted me as a seminarian for the diocese of La Crosse. After a year of priesthood I returned to Peru to take over the orphanage where I have been director for the past ten years.

Last year I took some of our graduates into the jungle to Oaxapampa where Fr. Joe spent his last years. I was surprised to see that a brand new school had been constructed and even more surprised to see that it had been name "Fr. José School". He had only lived there a few short years and he had made such a huge impact that they named their new school after him!

Last Easter I was told that one of the women who had formed an association to support Fr. Joe's work had entered the Church. I then recalled a conversation that I had had with her some years earlier. She said that she always felt called to do some sort of charity work and everywhere she saw charitable work be done it was under the auspices of the Catholic Church.

When Fr. Joe died the were thousands who attended his funeral, and five bishops among them. As people passed by his coffin the reached out and touched it and then signed themselves with the Cross, the sign that they considered him to be a saint. These people didn't love him because of his eloquence in delivering homilies. They didn't love him for his great ability at explaining the faith. They loved him because he loved them.
Charity is the power of the human side of the Church. No other organization takes it upon itself to look out for the poorest of the poor. No one else cares for the widow and the orphan, the foreigner, the outcast, the sick, and the imprisoned. Anyone who does these things does it, like Julian the Apostate, in immitation of Christ and His Church. That is why it is so important that every member of the Body of Christ be joined with Christ our head in His care for the poor, His work of charity. And that is why I am here today, to offer you the opportunity to join yourselves more fully in this work of the Body of Christ."

1 comment:

  1. You know Father this is very good blog. Its been something that troubles me trying to understand the relationship the chruch has with one another. When I was baptised I was from a family of early american heritage not very church going but orignially protestant by origin. I am the first catholic in my family for hundreds of years. I was confirmed at a st mary's parish in s small town in Oregon. The town was where my family had lived since the 1800's. I had never attended church with my family , never communed with my family, never said prayers with my family not even at the dinner table with exception of my hippie uncle who was a pentecostal. My faith in Christ was Christ himself who called me. When I was a child I went to church with the neighbors wether nazarene, church of God, and even a catholic communion . The Holy Spirit guided me through my youth . I had much trouble but there was always a peace and calmness. I hadnt the experience of living in a nice christian home. I didnt have the experience of having a family that communed with the Lrod or parents who were these loving lights of christ who nurtured me through my youth. It was pretty rocky and unpredictable very unstable. My relatioinships with others were never lasting and one day I decided to seek the church for fellowship. I cant say as though I have had a real catholic friend yet though in the 18 years of being a catholic. I have yet to meet a catholic I could really share christ with in any way that I would know if there even is a chruch other than there is an institute. Alot of the catholics I meet are what the bible describges as the people not to consort with or sit with or even eat with. So many never read the bible or seem to be more friends with the world then they are with christ. Because I am an early american I myself do not always meet other kinds with open arms instead I tend to be more closed fisted about people . The st mary's parish were I was baptised had several italian catholic parishiners. In the basement was a whole book shelf of catholic mafioso geneology books. After I was baptised I started to feel like I had joined up with the mob or something. I wanted to be unassociated again. After a year I had finally spoke to a priest visiting from italy I asked him to pray for my freedom. I said I didnt believe in God because of others it was only the Lord who called me. Which was true. I didnt want to feel like I had to attend or asooicate because people thought I should have to do that. I didnt feel like I fit in . No one was the same as me. I didnt like the culture I didnt like the monarchy like fellowhsip. I hated being associated with mafias . I really wasnt an urban dweller and didnt hadnt adapted to the urban cultural differences so many catholics have. I always felt threatened by the Italian catholic and there heritage. It seemed alien to me. The thought of Rome has always seemed a threat to me. I dont know if I am the only early american catholic who feels threatened by the roman and italian but I yet in almost 20 years have even been to really grab hold of the understanding that there is really a body of christ other than just christ in me. When I attend I end up finding out people I am around are really not who I would sit by or associate with let alone worship God or welcome in my house. I like to think we are one in the spirit but I am accepting that God must not of called me to be peoples friend or family. As bad as that seems what relationship we have as a body is such a mystery to me. I always am certain I am Gods child and always have my heart satisfied by my faith and the Love of God but any intimate relationship with the church has never occured not even a friendship . I actually am glad it went that way because I feel less involved with the lives of others and can be more involved with life in the Spirit.


Comments are most welcome! As always, be charitable and remember the 8th Commandment (Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor).